On the anniversary of the attempted Jan. 6 insurrection, Russian state TV reporter Denis Davydov was lurking at the Capitol, working on a special that aired on Sunday night. The broadcast featured a clip of Davydov approaching Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)—a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot—with a question: “It is believed that Jan. 6 was a planned attack by the FBI and radical Democrats. Are you investigating this?” In response, Raskin cuts through the bullshit and tells Davydov, “Give my regards to Vladimir Putin.”
A year earlier, Davydov had been embedded amongst the would-be insurrectionists, describing them as “rebels” and showcasing their bloody wounds on camera. State media coverage that followed included interviews with Russian-speaking bloggers who took part in the rally preceding the riot—all in an effort to present the rioting as a false flag operation, set up by the Democrats to impeach and discredit former U.S. President Donald Trump. The same long-discredited propaganda narrative is still favored by the Kremlin’s pet networks.
With a Russian state media crew filming inside the Capitol building, Davydov pointed out the spot where rioter Ashli Babbitt was shot. He introduced Michael Leroy Byrd, the Capitol police officer who shot her, as “the black policeman who pulled the trigger, but was never punished for shooting an unarmed person.” Davydov tracked down Babbitt’s mother, Michelle Witthoeft, asking her on camera whether anyone representing authorities ever apologized to her for the death of her daughter. Witthoeft replied saying she received no apologies and insisted that someone would have to pay for “murdering” Ashli.
The Sunday broadcast also featured ‘coverage’ of a rally outside a jail in Washington, D.C., where some of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists are being held. There, the Russian journalist interviewed Trump supporters who aired grievances about conditions in the jailhouse. Meanwhile, Russia is grappling with yet another scandal involving accusations of gruesome torture in Russian prisons, condoned and directed by prison officials. When asked about it, Russian President Vladimir Putin had claimed that prison conditions in Western nations, including the United States, are worse than in some third-world countries.
“The two Americas—supporters and opponents of Trump—remain in hand-to-hand combat and continue to clash.”
The title of the Rossiya-1 TV special, “Stolen Elections: Half of Americans Still Don’t Believe in Biden’s Victory,” is aligned with a familiar narrative on Russian airwaves and social media platforms. Last week, Russian parliament member Alexey Pushkov wrote on his Telegram channel: “[U.S. President Joe Biden] will not be able to restore the old image of the United States as a law-based, transparent, democratic nation. Even before, this image was false, but after the scandalous elections of 2020 it collapsed completely… America looks like a house of cards that is falling apart.”
The program showcased interviews with several Trump supporters who raged about “stolen elections” and alleged instances of “election fraud.” Sitting down with Russian state media, Arizona congressional candidate Jeff Zink described instances of “suspicious” election records he claimed to have personally observed. Zink told the Kremlin-funded state TV channel: “We know that the elections were stolen, so my son and I went to Washington on January 6th.” Zink’s son, Ryan Scott Zink, is facing federal charges of obstructing an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct.
Throughout the broadcast, Davydov sympathetically downplayed the actions of Capitol rioters by claiming that they merely “decided to enter the temple of democracy,” describing the lawmakers under attack as “representatives hiding from their own voters.” The state TV reporter described the Jan. 6 Commission as a committee “composed of Democrats and several Republicans who hate Trump,” using a clip from Fox News to corroborate this perspective.
Fox News is one of the most-frequently showcased American channels in Russia, unquestionably favored by state media. When Putin latched on to the coverage of Ashli Babbitt—and Tucker Carlson reiterated the president’s questions on his show—Kremlin propagandists described it as a “bullseye” accomplishment for Moscow’s ongoing efforts to influence public opinion in the United States.
The conclusion of the Jan. 6 special on Russian state television was just as telling as the title of the segment. Davydov noted: “Officially, Biden won the election, but he could not convince the Americans of his fair victory… A year has passed, the two Americas—supporters and opponents of Trump—remain in hand-to-hand combat and continue to clash.” Davydov concluded his reportage on an ominous note: “In the next presidential election, neither side will agree to admit defeat.”